General human rights

The BMZ's human rights strategy

Dancing women in Lumpa, Sierra Leone.

To further ensure the systematic mainstreaming of human rights in German de­vel­op­ment policy, in May 2011 the BMZ published its "Human Rights in German De­vel­op­ment Policy" strategy paper. This paper adds to and takes further the de­vel­op­ment policy action plans for human rights for 2004 to 2010. In these action plans the BMZ had voluntarily pledged to orient de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion systematically toward human rights. At the same time the new strategy operationalises the German gov­ern­ment's action plans for human rights in the de­vel­op­ment policy context.

The BMZ strategy contains binding instructions for shaping official de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion. This includes for instance preparing coun­try strategies for bilateral de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion, and designing and implementing specific programmes. For the official implementing organisations (the GIZ, KfW, BGR and PTB) that plan and implement de­vel­op­ment measures on behalf of the BMZ, these instructions are binding. For business conducted by the KfW De­vel­op­ment Bank and its subsidiary DEG, as well as GIZ and its business area In­ter­national Services, at their own risk, the strategy serves as a standard. For civil society organisations such as churches or political foundations, and for the private sector, the strategy provides helpful guidance.

Promoting inclusive de­vel­op­ment

The German government's human rights-based approach promotes inclusive de­vel­op­ment. In many coun­tries people in pov­er­ty, women, persons with disabilities, young people, members of indigenous peoples, and ethnic, religious or sexual minorities, are pushed to the margins of society. Human rights-based de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion aims to remove social barriers so that the rights of disadvantaged groups can be realised.

Accordingly, the human rights strategy is supplemented and made more specific by papers and guidelines that are oriented toward the rights of particular disadvantaged groups. In October 2011, for instance, the BMZ published its position paper "Young people in German de­vel­op­ment policy – a contribution to the implementation of the rights of children and youth". The BMZ is currently updating its strategy on gender equality, and plans to produce a de­vel­op­ment policy gender action plan for 2014-2017. The Action Plan for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (2013 – 2016) also supplements the BMZ's human rights strategy. A position paper on promoting the rights of indigenous peoples will be published by the end of 2013.

Objectives and strategies

Children in the old town of Hebron. Copyright: Thomas Koehler/photothek.netGerman de­vel­op­ment policy's human rights-based approach aims to raise awareness of human rights obligations in partner coun­tries, and increase willingness to meet those obligations.

From the lessons learned in co­op­er­a­tion to date, the following strategies were developed:

  • Policy coherence
    Compliance with human rights at the national and in­ter­national levels can only contribute to sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment if it is upheld through a whole-of-gov­ern­ment approach that encompasses for instance trade, ag­ri­cul­tur­al, environmental and education policy. Consequently, Germany encourages its partner coun­tries to strengthen the human rights orientation of their pov­er­ty reduction programmes and reform strategies for specific sectors (water supply and sanitation, education, rural de­vel­op­ment, health).

    At the same time, German, European and in­ter­national policy-making must become more responsive to the concerns of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

  • Strengthening civil society and participation
    Human rights can only be realised if civil society is involved in planning, decision-making and implementation processes. To enable state actors and civil society groups to perform their respective roles, German de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion strengthens structures for civil society, and supports human rights education as well as public information and lobbying/advocacy work on human right standards and principles.

  • Transparency and accountability
    Human rights both require and reinforce structures that facilitate transparency and accountability. German de­vel­op­ment policy supports the establishment and consolidation of appropriate institutions.

  • Assessing human right risks and impacts
    All measures of official bilateral de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion are subjected to a human rights impact and risk assessment. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly im­por­tant for infrastructure measures. For instance, the assessors verify whether the local popu­la­tion has been involved to a sufficient extent, and whether the infrastructure is fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

  • Corporate re­spon­si­bil­i­ty
    Business activity can help guarantee many human rights – such as the right to pursue gainful employment or the right to social protection. On the other hand, enterprises can infringe human rights for instance by failing to provide decent working conditions, through child labour, by violating trade union rights or by damaging the en­vi­ron­ment.
    Germany supports partner governments in establishing structures under the rule of law that allow state regulation and supervision of corporate activity. In co­op­er­a­tion with the private sector the BMZ promotes the de­vel­op­ment of standards, guidelines and voluntary initiatives for responsible business.

Referring to a set of de­vel­op­ment policy criteria, the governance and the human rights situ­a­tion is reviewed annually for each partner coun­try in relation to five criteria. For instance, the review looks at whether the in­ter­national human rights agreements have been translated into national law, and whether corresponding institutions and procedures have been created. The nature and scope of future de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion are then determined on the basis of the outcome of this review.

Specific projects and programmes

Germany's cross-cutting engagement for human rights is complemented by specific measures that focus on particular human rights deficits in the partner coun­tries concerned. These projects aim to strengthen state and civil society structures and foster dialogue between the state and civil society, for instance through human rights education.

Human rights measures focus on creating enabling frameworks for civil society that allow local organisations to work without hindrance. Germany also supports measures to protect human rights defenders, who often face persecution as a result of their activities. In this connection the BMZ works closely with German non-governmental organisations.

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